KANNAPOLIS, N.C. – It’s race number 15, but to fans it seems like so much more.
There is a track, 2 miles of asphalt in southern Michigan, nestled in the Irish Hills just south of Brooklyn.
People come from all over to watch the racing there, including the automotive cities that surround it – Fort Wayne, Indiana; Toledo, Ohio; Flint, Michigan; and of course Detroit, the biggest of them all.
Perhaps they stop at the Beach Bar in Brooklyn or grab a six-pack and a bottle of wine at Woodstock Wine and Cheese before grilling burgers or enjoying some pasta selections.
Maybe they’ll wait out two days of rain and watch the race on a Tuesday like back in 2007.
They stay up late and tell old bench racing stories with daylight lasting until after 10 p.m.
People will come to watch 43 drivers navigate the 2 miles of asphalt and use multiple lanes to figure out the fastest way for their car. They will see Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), try to make history.
Race fans will hope they can see her lead five laps and finish seventh, like she did in the 2007 IndyCar Series race, or go from 39th to 13th like she did in the June 2013 Sprint Cup race.
Overall, they will hope to see a good, competitive, safe race in Sunday’s Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway.
It’s pure racing. It’s pure Michigan.
DANICA PATRICK, Driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
What are your thoughts on Michigan?
“Michigan is a wide, fast track. There’s lots of room to move around and try different lines. I think it’s a momentum track and you have to focus on being smooth. At the end of the day, the car has to handle well. It has to feel good. It has to be a fast car. I think those are the challenges – getting your car to handle well and being smooth and consistent lap after lap at such a fast track.”
What challenges does Michigan present?
“It’s really easy to have an imbalance, whether it’s getting the power down on exit or most of the time being tight. I feel like the track produces some great racing and there’s a lot of drafting, so you can use that to help pass cars.”
You will be making your first appearance in the broadcast booth Saturday during the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Michigan. Are you at all nervous as you prepare to join the broadcast team on FOX Sports 1?
“I wouldn’t really say I’m nervous. I enjoy trying new things and I’m looking forward to getting in the booth and sharing my perspective with all the fans watching at home.”
Some of your fellow NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers have already joined the broadcast team as guest analysts this year. Do you have any key takeaways from watching those guys?
“Those guys have definitely done a great job so far this year and it’s been great to hear their insight each week as I watched the Xfinity races. I think there are definitely a few things I’ve picked up from watching each of them and we’ll see how well I can put that to use on Saturday.”
We’re coming up on Father’s Day. Talk about the importance of fathers, especially in our sport.
“Father’s Day, just like Mother’s Day, is a very important day to love and take a moment to share that in a special way to your dad. Fathers are super important no matter what you’re doing and where you’re at, whether you’re in NASCAR or not. I know that definitely in racing there are a lot of dads who have played a big part in helping get their child to the level they’re at. My dad was definitely a huge part of me getting to where I am in racing. Aside from that, dads are just important, in general. It’s a nice day to get a card and write something special, say something special or do something special for your dad.”
- Tom Jensen
NASCAR Editor at FOXSports.com & RACER Magazine